by Bruce Whitaker
One day a man walked up to Samuel Huntley and asked him, “Why don’t you get one of these fine girls, settle down and have a home?” These words had a profound impression on Huntley. He decided that was exactly what he would do.
This may seem ridiculous in today’s world — a man penniless, wearing rags, no roof over his head and no job —but the 1880s were a completely different world. Almost everyone, except in the big cities, dug their living out of the ground. A man could not make it by himself, and neither could a woman; it took a couple and as many children as they could have. They needed the children for their labor, and they started earning their keep at the age of 3 or 4. There was no such thing as social security or pensions at the time. Children were needed to look after their parents in their old age, if they were lucky enough to live to be old.
Old itself was not very old either. Newspaper obituaries from the period would read “John Smith died at the ripe old age of 52” or “Mary Smith, one of the community’s oldest residents, died at 60.”
Samuel Huntley soon found a woman who would marry him. He married Luizer Marion Hill on February 3, 1882. “Lou” was born in 1860. She was the daughter of Allen L. Hill (October 1827–July 22, 1916) and Nancy Conner (August 1841–1915). She was a sister to Cora Hill Reed (1875–1960), wife of Ben Reed (1864–1947).
Ben Reed’s father Abner Reed (1824–1900) lived at the head of Garren Creek on what is now called Ownbey Cove Road at the foot of Little Pisgah. This resulted in a large number of the Reed family marrying Huntleys, who lived on the Henderson County side of Little Pisgah Mountain.
Sam’s brother-in-law offered to build the couple a cabin to live in, if Huntley would help him. Sam and Lou were soon living in their own tiny little cabin. Huntley’s brother-in-law also helped him make his first year’s crop. Sam soon got so in debt to his wife’s brother it took him until he was 25 years old to pay him off.
Huntley cleared land, built roads and made liquor, which he both sold and drank. Sam Huntley came under the deep conviction that he lived wickedly and could not sleep at night. He worried about leading his children into living this sort of life, and he decided to give up some of his bad habits and try to live better.
Sam tried to avoid his drinking buddies, but this proved to be hard to do. Nothing seemed to get better. He started going to Sunday School and tried to read the Bible, but he had so little education that it was hard to read the Bible. He spent as much time trying to learn how to read as he did reading.
Sam’s cousin Billy Huntley was pastor of Middle Fork Baptist Church (on the back side of Little Pisgah); when the church was about to start a revival meeting, Sam Huntley decided to attend. This revival took place in the fall of 1901. Rev. H. P. Rich was supposed to be the revival preacher. He was unable to attend at the last minute. Rev. W. F. Sinclair, who went to hear Pastor Rich speak, ended up taking his place.
Samuel Huntley went into an ivy thicket on the way to church to pray in private before the meeting. One night the sermon “exactly fitted my case,” according to Huntley. He said to himself that he would not sleep until he found “rest for my poor soul.” Samuel got on his horse and headed home. It was a very dark night and his horse was skittish and hard to manage. He stopped his horse, got off and fell to his knees and prayed to God. The burden was lifted from Huntley’s heart and he went home and got his first good night’s sleep in years.
However, Sam decided not to tell anyone what had happened. He went back to church the next night, but when the preacher asked at the end of service if anyone had been blessed to tell about it, Huntley said nothing. He was afraid to say anything. He had lived wrong for so long that he was afraid he may not really have made a change.
Sunday morning the pastor asked again if someone wished to give testimony. This time Samuel Huntley’s fear and backwardness couldn’t hold him back. He stood up for the first time in public and gave his testimony. The church was stirred in a great way by what Sam had said; the “spirit caught fire.” Rev W. F. Sinclair said Sam Huntley’s testimony resulted in the most far-reaching revival he ever saw.
Part 3 will be in next month’s Town Crier. Local historian Bruce Whitaker documents genealogy in the Fairview area. You can reach him at 628-1089 or email him at [email protected].